Friday, June 4, 2010

macaroni and (fake) cheese

I think I accidentally stumbled on the best macaroni and cheese recipe and it didn't even have any cheese in it!

You weren't expecting to hear that, were you? Well, here's the deal. A while back, I bought a bag of nutritional yeast for some vegetarian burger recipe. Like all new things, I'd never heard of nutritional yeast, I'd never tasted it, and beyond that burger recipe (which turned out terribly, by the way), I had no idea what else to do with it.

Interestingly, the package had a recipe for cheese on the back of it. Cheese. I looked at it, wrinkled my nose up, and didn't really think of it again until last night.

Honestly, I don't really know what triggered me to think of the yeast. There wasn't some recipe that I wanted to try that needed cheese or anything like that, I just remembered it. Vaguely. Out of the blue. So I looked at the recipe on the package again. Thought, ok this is a little scary. A little unknown, but I have nothing else to use it for. It's just sitting there. Doing nothing. Not contributing anything. So I thought, I'm just going to make it, taste it, and go from there.

And you know what? It actually tasted really good. Like, really good. I wanted to lick the whisk off and it's cheese, and I don't even particularly like cheese so much in the first place.

My dinner plans quickly turned to baked macaroni and cheese and for kicks I made it with a ton o' mushrooms.

Nutritional Yeast Cheese (adapted from Bob's Red Mill)

1/2 cup yeast flakes
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 tsp dijon
1/4 + 1/8 cup vegetable oil (I didn't have quite enough, but I think you could get away with just 1/4 cup)
1 cup of water

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a medium sized pot, add the first cup of water and slowly, while whisking, add the dry ingredients. Cook over medium heat whisking constantly until it starts to thicken and bubble slightly.
Remove from heat and whisk in the mustard and oil. Place back on heat and, while whisking, add in the second cup of water. Keep whisking and cooking until the cheese becomes thick and is bubbling. Remove from heat.

Baked Mushroom Macaroni and (fake) Cheese

3 cups uncooked macaroni
4 dried shitaki mushrooms (choose the larger, easier to clean ones from your bag)
nutritional yeast cheese
1 can mushrooms (I would have used fresh had I had them!)
1/4 cup (for a loaf pan -- maybe 1/2 cup would be better for a casserole dish) panko bread crumbs
to taste: onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, vegetable seasoning

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Wash the shitaki mushrooms thoroughly and place in the boiling water with the macaroni. Cook 8-10 minutes until macaroni is al dente (or how you like). Remove the shitaki mushrooms and set aside to cool. Drain macaroni and mix in all your fake cheese. Open your mushrooms but don't discard the water! Pour a little at a time into the macaroni mixture until it's not as thick and gummy. (If yours isn't too thick to begin with, or you like it that way, then disregard this step. I found I had to use just about all the mushroom water. Also, don't be grossed out! My gram did this for years! Do it with tuna, too, for an extra tuna flavour boost!) Add in the canned mushrooms. Chop your now slightly cooled shitaki mushrooms and add those to the macaroni. Give it a good stir. I added lots of pepper and vegetable seasoning at this point.

If you want to eat it now, go right ahead! It was a very yummy creamy mac 'n' cheese at this point. But if you want to leave it in the fridge until supper (you know, make it ahead of time and then chillax), then you can pop it into a medium sized, lightly greased casserole dish or, like me, you can portion it into two lightly greased loaf pans. One to eat now and one to put in the freezer for that occasion when you have no idea what to make and you're desperately hungry.

Just before baking, mix your panko crumbs with cayenne, paprika, onion powder, salt, and pepper and sprinkle evenly over the macaroni. Place into a 350 degree oven (or toaster oven!) and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the panko is nice and golden brown. Enjoy!

thanks to clever preportioning, we didn't eat all of it, but if it had been there, we would have!

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